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Garrett speaks at Take Your Legislator To School week

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By John Barnhart

    Delegate Scott Garrett spoke to Jefferson Forest High School’s government class, Friday, as part of Take Your Legislator to School week.

    Garrett began talking about Friday night’s football game, got them laughing, and then pointed out how this technique allowed him to get an audience’s attention and build rapport in eight seconds. He was then able to hold their attention through his presentation, tossing in humor and asking the students’ questions.
    He went over the four core activities of the Commonwealth’s government: education, public safety, public health and infrastructure. Garrett noted the responsibility to provide schools is in Virginia’s Constitution. He explained that expanding spending in any one of these core areas means that more money must be raised through taxes or money must be taken from other areas.
    Garrett noted that everybody pays taxes, pointing to the state’s sale tax. He also urged the teens to take a look at their cell phone bill and see how much of that consists of taxes.
    He discussed his need to balance the state’s need for revenue with what the taxpayers can pay, noting that their resources are not unlimited. He also spoke of citizens being able to choose—every time the government tells people what to do, it takes choice away.
    Garrett, who sits on the Appropriations Committee, the Transportation Committee and the Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee, said Take Your Legislator to School week provides a great opportunity to stay connected with people in his district. It also lets him check out area schools — he visited eight this week.
    After talking with the students, Garrett was questioned about the revenue shortfall, well below what was projected, the state is dealing with. How did this happen?
    Garrett said a 60 percent increase in the federal capital gains tax encouraged people to sell a lot of stock in late 2013 in order to take their capital gains while it would still be taxed at a lower federal rate. This generated an unusually large amount of capital gains tax revenue for Virginia and this amount got plugged into the formula used to forecast revenue, even though it was an anomaly. This caused revenue forecast for this year to be much higher than it should have been.